Have written about this before, but unfortunately can't find the post.
I think one of the reasons that very strange beliefs like Creationism, Birtherism, and New World Order/ Federal Reserve conspiracies exist in the United States is that we've had it too easy economically. In the post World War II world the competition had literally been bombed into ruins, and we walked in and filled the economic void with whatever we made. Although the '60s and '70s saw higher education greatly expand to create a highly skilled workforce, the efforts focused on future white collar workers, not on everyone down the line in every community, although some teachers tried valiantly to bring good education to everyone.
There wasn't any particular need beyond general principle for everyone to have an up to date education. The U.S. school system, locally controlled to an extreme, also resisted change. During the economic golden age of the '50s, '60s, and '70s, you could get a job without much education. Because of this, in the U.S. peculiar ideas that withered when confronted with critical reasoning weren't challenged, while in other countries all citizens got a good education, because they knew that an educated workforce is necessary to compete globally.
Now, with our economy in a bad state and the results of off-shoring industry written on the wall, we're seeing the consequences of lax education come to the surface. We're seeing how many people live in a bubble of half truths about how the world works, and we'll find as time goes on that Ron Paul fantasies about conspirators aren't what's needed for a high tech manufacturing economy. The way out is reason.